Selected Current Research
Asymmetries in Spoken Word Perception and Sound Change
My dissertation research concerns the connection between asymmetries in spoken word perception and asymmetries in rates of sound change in words of different frequencies. It combines a corpus-based case-study in New Zealand English with psycholinguistic experimentation and computational modeling.
Word-Frequency Effects in an Exemplar-Based Model of Push-Chains
We have built a computational exemplar-theoretic model for the perception/production loop to explore how items of different lexical frequencies may respond to changes in discriminability in the phonological space during sound change. The model predicts high-frequency words to change at a faster rate than low-frequency words when the change decreases discriminability, at a slower rate than low-frequency words when the change increases discriminability, and at the same rate as low-frequency words when the change does not affect discriminability. This paper forms one of the core chapters of my dissertation.
Something from nothing: pragmatic parsing of partitive possessives
I ran an experiment to test a Bayesian pragmatic model of parsing which predicts that the failure to clearly indicate an intended parse of a partitive plural possessive, via the phonological suppression of the possessive morpheme, inspires a meaningful inference when the intended parse is otherwise reasonably ambiguous. This psycholinguistic project brings together morphophonology, syntactic parsing, and the division of pragmatic labor.
Avoiding interpretation ambiguities with phonetic cues
I developed a Bayesian metric of the ease with which a listener of a dative alternation would correctly assign the thematic roles of recipient and theme if the preposition "to" were not heard, which I dubbed interpretability. I used this metric in a corpus study to test an information-based hypothesis relating to audience design, stating that, if speakers are aware of the information needs of their listener, they should strengthen the acoustic cues to /t/ in the word "to" in low-interpretability prepositional datives (when the listener would be likely to assign thematic roles incorrectly if the extra cue provided by "to" were not attended to).
Faithfulness and Exceptionality in Polish Stress: A Multistratal OT Analysis
I describe new facts about the placement of secondary stress in inflected exceptional stems and compounds in Polish, which are incompatible with existing analyses based in monostratal Optimality Theory. I propose an alternative analysis based in a multistratal approach to OT which not only accounts for these new facts, but also efficiently harnesses the similarity in stress placement across different morphophonological domains.
Pronouncing the Zs: Epenthesis in English plural possessives
I am conducting experiments to investigate how the propensity to suppress the possessive morpheme /z/ with possessors ending in the plural morpheme /z/ varies with properties of the possessor, such as the syntactic embeddedness of the plural host.
Eh in the Englishes of New Zealand
I am exploring variation and change in the use of the discourse particle eh in New Zealand, through corpus-based and experimental studies. I find evidence that eh has spread from indigenous Māori to white Pākeha over time, and that this spread was facilitated by the decrease in social stigma attached to Māori.